samedi, décembre 13, 2008

ParisFamilyXmas Day 1: Mussels and Arrivals

And we’re back! So I’m about 7 days behind on blogging, but I have a good excuse: my parents are in town, and every night I get home with a bottle of wine in me, and I somehow lack the motivation to write. Anyway, here’s comes the catch-up.

My parents were flying into town today, so I headed up to the airport by RER and sat around reading Lévinas and drinking coffee until their plane landed. It took them seemingly forever to get their luggage and come through customs, but eventually they made it and we hopped into a cab. Traffic was mercifully low on the highways, and so we were downtown pretty quickly. My parents (and, next week, my sister too) are renting an apartment in the Marais, so we spent a few minutes circling the one-way streets that neighborhood before we finally got close enough to the apartment to walk. The guy responsible for renting out the apartment showed up shortly thereafter and gave us the keys and a quick tour. The apartment is pretty rad, all things considered, and it’s about half a block from the old Jewish neighborhood of Paris, rue des rosiers.

My folks were famished, so we dropped off their luggage and headed straight out to a place on rue soufflot (near the Pantheon and the Luxembourg Gardens) called La Gueuze. Gueuze is a kind of lambic beer made in Belgium, often consumed with the traditional Belgian specialty of moules frites (“mussels and fries”). We each had a big kettle of mussels and a pint of fine Belgian beer, and then headed out in the drizzling rain for a walk.

Paris was doing a lovely job of welcoming my parents with its finest winter weather: grey skies, low cloud ceiling, incessant drizzling rain, high humidity, barely-above-freezing temperatures. Nonetheless, my parents have been living in Canada for more than 30 years and they know from cold, so we just kept walking. We wound through the Latin Quarter, checked out the church of St. Severin, traversed the famous rue de la huchette (whose restaurants are now mostly tourist traps) and then over to the island of Notre-Dame. It’s my dad’s first time in Paris, so we were trying to give him the “scenic” route from the restaurant back to the apartment.

Part of the goal of the walk was also to keep everyone awake as long as possible, since they had a 6-hour jet-lag to overcome. The secret to recovering jet-lag is to stay awake until night falls, and then to rise with the sun the next day. This was tough for my dad, who didn’t sleep on the flight; there was a medical emergency on the flight and he was called up to look after another passenger. Nonetheless, I managed to cajole them into walking past the hôtel de ville (town hall), through BHV, down the main drag of the gay neighborhood, and then through the Jewish neighborhood.

While my parents started unpacking and settling in, I headed around the corner and got them some bread and basic groceries, then left them to get some sleep.

vendredi, décembre 12, 2008

Git ur laundry on

I got a haircut this morning. Yay! I’m lookin’ good. So where do I go to show off the new haircut? The Laundromat, that’s where. In additional to my usual loads of laundry, I was in desperate need of washing all of my jeans and bed sheets as well. This is when Laundromats come in handy; I just started 5 loads of laundry at the same time, then loaded them into two giant dryers, and I was out of there in less than two hours. Efficient!

My parent’s are coming to town tomorrow (yay!), which means I need to pick them up at the airport at around 8am tomorrow. This means getting up around 6am, which isn’t going to happen with my current sleep cycle as it is. So I bought a bottle of tasty wine (Fitou), drank it, and fell asleep as I pondered my incipient alcoholism.

(p.s. dear mom: kidding! I don’t drink entire bottles of wine on my own…much)

jeudi, décembre 11, 2008

Hot Indian Action

After work today, I took a short detour by the Indian neighborhood near the La Chapelle métro station to buy some spices. I had been making pseudo-curries in these past few weeks, but I was always improvising with a collection of cumin, garlic, ginger and cumin (and lots of butter, of course). So today’s goal was to get mustard seeds, fenugreek, fennel seeds, cardamom pods, coriander seeds and maybe some lovage. I was successful, but I also managed to leave the store with a bag of spicy yucca chips and spicy murukku. Of course, once I got home, I scarfed down half of the bag of the murukku. That shit is delicious.

mercredi, décembre 10, 2008

Assiette Mouffetard

Oops! I’m behind on blogging yet again. Ever since the writing of the chapter, I’ve been feeling pretty slack, I’ll admit. Anyway, my day today wasn’t worth much of a blog post: drag my ass to work, help get the profs ready for the winter quarter, grab a quick bite to eat, teach English until 7pm, lurch home and eat some leftover curry from the previous night, fall into bed.

The one interesting thing from the day, possibly, was my “quick bite to eat” this afternoon, which was at a cute café/bar at the corner of rue Mouffetard and rue de l’Arabalette. They had an assiette mouffetard (“Mouffetard plate”), which included a small salad with nuts and raisins and an assortment of 3 cheeses and 3 kinds of deli meats…and a glass of wine. This is sort of a typical apéro setting (aperitif, or post-work/pre-dinner drink), including an alcoholic drink and a cold platter of meats and cheeses. However, this sort of cold platter is usually a small thing of a few salty bits of protein, sort of like a dish of tapas. This, however, was a massive party platter of meats and cheeses. By the time I had finished this and downed my drink, I was more in the mood for a nap than a 2-hour English class.

mardi, décembre 09, 2008

Teaching Canadian politics in the aftermath of last week

Not much to report today, either. In my English conversation class this evening, I had assigned them a couple of editorial essays on the mess that was last week in Canadian politics, and I ended up spending almost an hour just explaining how the Canadian parliamentary system works. The system itself is complicated enough, being a colonial version of Britain’s Westminister system, but as soon as you throw in minority governments, “vote of no confidence” and prorogation, it gets very, very complicated. Then I had to explain the Governor-General and her role as the representation of the Queen. Then I had to discuss the King-Byng affair and how that changed the conventions around the role of the Governor-General. It was a big mess.

Anyway, I went home after that, got some bread and wine, made a super-spicy channa masala, and read with more than a bit of schadenfreude about the arrest of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on corruption charges.

lundi, décembre 08, 2008

Meh Monday

Well, nothing exciting to report, really. I woke up this morning and realized that I had been eating rather…well…generously over the past week. Most likely, I was rewarding myself for getting a chapter (mostly) done, but I’m anxious to avoid putting on winter weight, as I’d like to continue the weight-loss trend I started this summer. Anyway, this week will be one of austerity, I think, since my parents are coming to visit starting this weekend (yay!).

On that note, I spent a large part of today scouring through my blog for references to restaurants I’ve visited in the past and started putting together a list of restaurants for my parents. Both of my parents are very adventurous eaters and will love most of what Paris has to offer, but at the same time my father isn’t comfortable in fine dining establishments, so the emphasis is going to be on bistro fare, methinks.

Otherwise, the rest of the day was spent taking care of some administrative stuff at work, and then I headed home, cooked up dinner (re-heated pintade from the day before) and played some video games on my computer. Part of my goal for this week is to enforce a real division between “work and work” and “play at home.” We’ll see how that works out.

dimanche, décembre 07, 2008

Thank you Jeebus for spit-roasting and poultry fat

So, one of the other things I had picked up during my trip to market last Friday was a whole pintade—that is, a guinea fowl. Although rarely eaten in North America, these things show up quite a bit here in France and for good reason. They have slightly pinkish flesh that is a nice balance between the mildness of chicken and the pungency of wild game fowl. They can bit a bit of trouble to cook, since the flesh is naturally pinkish, even when cooked. Nonetheless, you can still test doneness by inserting a small knife into the thigh, right to the bone, and check the juices that come out. If the juice is clear, the meat is ready; if it’s pinkish or red, cook it longer.

Aaaanyway, I digress. I bought a pintade on Friday and I decided to roast it. You see, the gas oven in my apartment has a top-broiler AND a rotisserie attachment. What more could you want, right? I also had a fair bit of winter vegetables sitting around (carrots, onions, turnips, potatoes), so I decided to mimic the poultry shops in Paris and roast the pintade with a pan of thick-cut vegetables underneath to catch the drippings.

There was one small complication: presumably to avoid turning broiling into baking, the rotisserie attachment is actually a bit bigger than the actual oven, and it comes with an extra bit of metal that you attach to the oven door to keep it open 1 inch or so. I suppose this makes sense (although not very energy-conscious), but this also meant that the temperature at the bottom of the oven didn’t get high enough to really roast the vegetables underneath. So, once the pintade was clearly ready, I transferred it to a serving dish and let it sit, while I closed the oven and turned on the regular burners. This seemed to do the trick, and I even re-set the broiler at the end to brown the tops of the veggies a little bit before serving.

As a last step, I took the roasting pan out, placed it on the stove over high heat and deglazed the pan with leftover oyster liquor from Friday. Delicious! Now, if only I had a ton of crème fraîche to finish the job…

Oh, and also: I took a bunch of turnips and glazed them in a butter-syrup. Very tasty. Drank the whole thing with a lot of wine.